Cut & Polish

The Definitive Guide for Email Outreach: 2020 Edition

What drives prospective candidates to click into and respond to some messages over others? Gem's Definitive Guide for Email Outreach has recruiters covered.

If you’re in talent acquisition, any number of circumstances in the industry are making your job more challenging right now—whether it’s talent shortages for certain roles, a new flood of inbound applications, concern about continuing to prove the value and relevance of recruitment amidst temporary hiring freezes, ongoing competition from TA teams who are eyeing the same talent you are, or your team’s examination of your diversity and inclusion initiatives in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Annual industry surveys show that recruiters find their jobs more and  more difficult year-over-year. Many of you might say that 2020 already wins in the “challenging” category.

But even if your company is seeing an increase of active applicants or your reqs are on hold, sourcing and outreach to passive candidates is just as important as it was in the days before COVID. Sourcing improves both quality of hire and workforce diversity (the latter of which is more important than ever right now); and it ultimately reduces time to hire and cost of hire because you’re building and nurturing a pipeline of ready talent for when that next role opens up. If hiring has been paused at your org, continuing to source and reach out to talent means you’ll more-than-double your hiring speed when those reqs open back up again. And if your team is still hiring? You’re under the same pressure as ever to nurture and capture top talent.

So what are best practices for that outreach? How do you cut through the noise? What drives prospects to click into—and then respond to—certain messages over others? Over the last three years, Gem has worked with hundreds of customers across a wide range of industries, including tech, finance, healthcare, and professional services. In that time, we’ve analyzed well over a million outreach emails, sent from thousands of sourcers and recruiters, in order to understand what outreach strategies see the best response rates from the most interested prospects. We’re re-publishing The Definitive Guide for Email Outreach, with updated data, at a time of great uncertainty in the market. But the data still tells a story about what works—and it’s a story worth paying attention to for your own outreach endeavors. We cover:

  • The ideal number of stages in an initial outreach sequence, along with average reply rates for each stage
  • How to space your sequence cadence to make messages more likely to be opened
  • The most successful personalization tokens, or token combinations, for email subject lines
  • The most successful personalization tokens for message content
  • Best send times, with more roles than our 2019 edition covered: engineering managers, engineers, sales, recruiting/HR, product, design, and data
  • Other best practices for outreach elements such as sending-on-behalf-of (SOBO) and calls to action

The Definitive Guide also includes plenty of examples of strong recruiting outreach, along with opinions from some of our best customers on most effective practices. Technologies finally exist for recruiting teams that centrally track their top-of-funnel work and give them visibility into email open rates, click-through rates, response rates, and content stats. With this data, talent acquisition can examine and analyze the impact of its efforts, using that data to reiterate on and refine future outreach. Forward-thinking teams have already implemented this technology, and they’ve been discovering vital insights into prospect interest and engagement for a few years now.

If it’s up to us at Gem, every talent team will soon be internally equipped to discover its own best practices and start standing out in prospects’ inboxes. But we also know that it takes time to experiment and rigorously evaluate your sourcing and recruiting efforts. In the meantime, we’ll keep updating The Definitive Guide for Email Outreach to help you understand what kinds of messages are statistically more likely to resonate with, and encourage responses from, your prospects.

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Content Strategist
June 15, 2020
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